The Black Knights manufactured just enough offense to hold off the Pioneers in a section crossover game on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Video by John Buffone.
LANDISVILLE — Opportunistic.
All of those descriptions — along with a few others — snugly fit a fundamentally accomplished Hempfield baseball club that found a number of effective ways to cash in and turn away Lampeter-Strasburg 3-1 in a Lancaster-Lebanon League crossover game Wednesday at sun-splashed JK Mechanical Field.
Although Jeremy Morrison’s Black Knights (10-1, 7-1) scratched out just three hits against a pair of pitchers, Hempfield definitely benefited when a pair of Lampeter-Strasburg pitchers combined to walk nine batters.
Especially since Morrison’s bunch took advantage of a passed ball, sacrifice fly and fielder’s choice to plate its three runs.
“Sometimes it’s not pretty,” Morrison admitted. “Sometimes it doesn’t always click. We do the best we can and we value baserunners, so I’m glad we had a good deal of baserunners — but unfortunately we could only push three across.”
“If we had to draw it up this way, we wouldn’t. … But I’m just proud of the kids for battling and battling. This was definitely not an easy game to manage and I don’t think it was easy to play in. I give the kids a lot of credit on both teams.”
Starting pitcher Chase Gilbert was the benefactor, spreading out six hits while fanning seven batters, walking one and hitting one. Although Gilbert did not fashion a complete game, Andrew Corso came on in the seventh to nail down the save.
The victory was the fourth in a row for the Black Knights, who maintained their share of the L-L I lead. L-S (5-6, 3-5), which owned a 1-0 lead in the second inning, tumbled for the fourth time in five outings.
Colin Eckman had two hits for Keith Martin’s Pioneers.
And then Eckman bounced a chopper through the middle to open the top of the second inning, that knock ignited a rally that gave L-S its short-lived lead.
One out later, Eckman advanced to second when Gilbert issued a four-pitch walk to Chase Nelle. Several moments later, Garrett Groshong followed with a ground single to left that chased home Eckman with the game’s first run.
Hempfield did not waste any time responding, as back-to-back walks to Gilbert and Corso had L-S starter Kris Pirozzi in a quick jam.
Pirozzi got an out when Reilly Workman forced courtesy runner Nick Boulanger at third, but Jeremy Noel blooped a single to center that jammed the sacks.
Morrison’s Knights banked the equalizer moments later when Corso scored on a passed ball, then jumped in front to stay when Alec Miller’s fly ball to left enabled courtesy runner T.J. Biondilillo to trot home with the go-ahead run.
“One thing we stress a lot is resilience,” Gilbert said. “We never get down. We never get upset. Even if we’re losing, we’re still up with it and we still think we’re going to win. We’re just waiting for our time to pass.”
Hempfield tacked on a third run in the home half of the third on Gilbert’s bouncer to second. A leadoff walk to Brendan Keller eventually led to the insurance run.
“You can’t give other teams freebies,” Martin lamented. “You can’t give other teams outs, whether it’s offensively or defensively.
“Hempfield’s a good team to show that, but looking up and down Section 1 and 2 there’s not a team in the league you can do that with and get away with it.”
Even though Gilbert conceded leadoff singles in the first three innings, the Hempfield lefty grew stronger, retiring eight straight batters at one point.
Gilbert was in trouble in the sixth after one-out singles by Weiant and Eckman, but wiggled out of that jam when Bear Shank bounced into a 4-6-3 double play.
“He really did a nice job of giving us a chance,” Morrison said.
“We were asking him to do his best,” Morrison added. “They have a good lineup. Take nothing away from L-S, they have a good lineup and for him to get through it.
“I give him a lot of credit. He did a really good job for us today.”
Corso came on in the seventh, allowing a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Luke Weigel. Reliever Dan Eshleman lifted a fly ball to deep left that Keller handled, but appeared to lose control of while making the transfer to his throwing hand.
Pinch-runner Ioanni Kovack took off when the ball hit the ground, but was ruled out when Hempfield appealed that he left prematurely. Martin had a discussion with the umpires about the play, but the calls stood as the first two outs.
“Honestly, I saw the ball go in the glove,” Martin said. “I turned to see where the runners were and that’s when I started hearing guys in our dugout saying he dropped it. I personally didn’t see it, but when my guys are watching the game I tend to trust my guys and listen to my guys. So I asked [the umpire] for an explanation and he said he saw the catch and the ball on the transfer pop out.
“That’s a tough one.”
“It was kind of a weird play, especially in that circumstance with the batter being the tying run and the second run for them on base,” Morrison said.
“I do believe he caught it. Brendan said he caught it.”
Moments later, the hard-throwing Corso polished off the save by fanning Andrew Hay to close out the game and lock up another positive result.
“Just trying to get every win,” Gilbert said. “Have a short memory [since] we have a game on Friday. Pretty much have games every two days, so you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. Even if you lose, you’ve got another game coming up.
“Just have to stay hungry, stay healthy and be ready to play.”
L-S, meanwhile, will keep digging.
“Nine walks hurt us today,” Martin said. “I thought we played pretty good defense, but there’s definitely things that we can do through the course of the game to have things like that not matter. We’ve just got to continue to play the game well, look within ourselves, play the game with integrity and good character.
“We talk about the baseball gods and hope they start giving back to us at some point and reward us here for some of the things we’re doing right.”
Hempfield 3, Lampeter-Strasburg 1
L-S 010 000 0 — 1-7-2
Hempfield 021 000 x — 3-3-1
Kris Pirozzi, Dan Eshleman (4) and Devon Weiant. Chase Gilbert, Andrew Corso (7) and Reilly Workman. W-Gilbert. L-Pirozzi. S-Corso.